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A Man with a Camera

By (author) Nestor Almendros
Translated by R.P. Belash
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 31st May 1984
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
ISBN-10: 0571135897
ISBN-13: 9780571135899
Barcode No: 9780571135899

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Kirkus US
Film-by-film reflections on cinematography - by the Truffaut/Rohmer specialist who has also directed the camerawork for such major US productions as Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie's Choice. First come, very briefly, general comments and reminiscences. Almendros sketches in his esthetic credo - "that the light sources must be justified," "that what is functional is beautiful," "that the more complex the movie, the more one needs to be at the viewfinder oneself." He offers a few intriguing specifics (US directors shoot too much by "hundreds of thousands of feet," the old Technicolor was in some ways superior to today's process); he gives advice to would-be cinematographers. And he recalls his "pre-history" - from Spanish childhood to Cuban student days (a film club with the likes of Cabrera infante and Carlos Clarens); from film-studies in N.Y. and Italy to documentary-making in Castro's wildly bureaucratic Cuba; finally to France, where his talent and cinema verite instincts attracted the attention of Eric Rohmet circa 1964, leading to Almendros' acquisition of professional mastery in French educational television. After that, the book is strictly project-by-project, starting with Rohmer's 1964 contribution to a Paris documentary and then (1966) La Collectionneuse: "The film had to have a 'natural' look; whether we wanted it to or not, because we had only five photoflood lamps." The black-and-white vs. color question comes up throughout, most vividly with My Night at Maud,; that film led to working for Truffaut ("sheer pleasure. . .no hysteria"). The Seventies bring American work - staring with Terence Malick's Days of Heaven: an "homage to the creators of the silent films, whom I admire for their blessed simplicity and their lack of refinement. From the thirties on, the cinema has become much too sophisticated." And with the Oscar for Days of Heaven, Almendros' career enters a new phase - alternating Truffaut and Rohmer labors-of-love (The Last Metro, Pauline at the Beach) with big-budget US entries. In these short film-by-film essays, Almendros easily moves from the most technical matters (film-stock, lighting instruments, etc.) to esthetic questions of mood, narrative, acting, and style. He is appreciative of his collaborators without gush, serious without pomposity. In sum: an essential volume for film students (the intended audience), and - notwithstanding the technicalities - rewarding browsing for film-buffs of all persuasions. (Kirkus Reviews)